Mustangs ride on to face rival Blue Valley

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: November 4, 2016 - 11:33 PM

In the game program for Blue Valley North, it’s hard to find more polar opposites than the 5-foot-5, 160-pound Tony Bragulla and the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Peter Klug. Yet with Bragulla thrust into a starting role on offense and added pressure for Klug to deliver on defense with the season on the line, the duo rose to the occasion to take down Shawnee Mission West 20-9 in the 6A regional round.

Head coach Andy Sims admitted after the game his choice to sit regular starter Grant Hamel at running back wasn’t easy, as his injury isn’t expected to keep him out of next week’s game at No. 1 seed Blue Valley, but the game time decision did pave the way for the tiny junior to earn plenty of carries and electrify the home crowd.

“It is a little bit risky (sitting Hamel) because he’s obviously a huge player for you,” stated Sims afterwards. “But, you can make those decisions a little bit easier when you’ve got guys like Tony. You trust those guys and yeah, there are mistakes, but you can’t criticize a kid for a performance like that in a playoff game in his first start. I’d have a hard time doing that.”

As hard a time as the Mustangs coach will have critiquing the running back’s film, the Vikings defense had an equally challenging night trying to tackle him.

Though the score remained knotted at 0-0 to enter the second quarter, Bragulla had slowly begun to take advantage of a few seams his offensive line had created on two, up-tempo drives to start the game.  After helping put the Mustangs in the lead by grinding out enough yardage for Raleigh Barthol to hit a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter, Bragulla was able to then allow Blue Valley North to regain the lead before halftime, punching in a five-yard touchdown with 1:32 left to go up 10-7.

“I’d have to say it was all a team effort and I’m blessed to have been on the field with those guys tonight,” recapped the elated rusher, who would add a second touchdown from six yards out on the opening drive of the second half. “I was running low and keeping my shoulders down, reading my blocks for me to cut, and using my speed. It was just a good day for me.”

When Bragulla wasn’t shooting through his physical offensive line to slice past the Shawnee Mission West defense, he was on the sidelines watching Klug and the Mustangs defense slow what’s been a very solid Sunflower League offense.

“We’re where we’re at because of them and they’ve played great,” Sims said of a defensive line that, with Klug taking charge, constantly gave Shawnee Mission West quarterback Zach Witters pressure. “They’re a good football team and you hold them to nine points, and (North’s defensive line) were down a man because Miles (Emery) was nursing a bit of an injury. These guys really stepped up.”

“We had to shut down their run game,” Klug said in addition to his coach’s thoughts. “They have a deadly triple option and we knew the quarterback would want to scramble, so we had to put pressure on him to force him into bad decisions. Me, Alex Buffo, Matt McGruder stepping in at nose even though he hadn’t started all year- we worked our butts off.”

The Vikings struggled to find any momentum. Aside from a 38-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route to senior Jonah Stremel midway through the second quarter, Shawnee Mission West’s offensive game summary read as follows: Six punts, two fumbles, a turnover on possessions, and a game ending interception.

“I think they’re a really good team but we were our biggest enemy tonight,” Shawnee Mission West head coach Tim Callaghan said in defeat. “We had a lot of personal fouls and stuff like that that just kill you in a game like this.”

“We just couldn’t get churning and I thought their line did a good job. I wouldn’t say we got dominated but we had a hard time running tonight.”

For Blue Valley North, now winners of two playoff games after not having won one in more than a decade, the test towards a title only grows as they’ll leave the comforts of home to travel south next week to take on the EKL rival Tigers, a team that downed the Mustangs 25-7 back in September.

“They’re the established team in the league and it’s been that way for a long time, so it’s a big deal,” Sims said looking ahead at the sectional date with Blue Valley and Eric Driskell. “I think our guys are going to be ready but they’re a well coached football team, so it will be a long weekend for me for sure.”

“I’m excited and I know the whole team is pumped up,” the senior Klug finished, oozing with intensity over the area’s top-ranked 6A squad. “We all feel like we sort of got robbed that first game because we didn’t play our best. We’re just chomping at the bit to get another battle with those guys and I think it’ll be a good game.”